Florida Citizen's Arrest Laws

By Jane Meggitt
If you catch a felon in the act in Florida, call the police immediately.

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Since the Sunshine State doesn't have specific statutes dealing with citizen's arrests, it follows common law on the issue. You can perform a citizen's arrest only if the perpetrator commits a felony -- with certain exceptions -- and you either witness the act yourself or have reason to believe the person is guilty of the crime. Once you detain a suspect, you must call law enforcement officials immediately. Making an unjust citizen's arrest can backfire and land you in court.

Making a Citizen's Arrest

If you detain someone because you believe he committed a crime, you must inform him that you are making a citizen's arrest. While Florida generally limits citizen's arrests to felony cases, there are a few exceptions that allow misdemeanor arrests, as when a store employee witnesses a shoplifting. If you decide to make a citizen's arrest, which usually occurs in the spur of the moment, make sure there's plenty of evidence to back you up. You are not permitted to use excessive force to detain a suspect, nor can you deliberately harm the person. You could be charged with assault if you unnecessarily hurt the suspect or you may be charged with false arrest if the police find no evidence of a crime.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

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